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      Amnesty Report Describes Syria's Chilling 'Ghost Militias'

      In a new report, Amnesty International confirmed the horrible conditions in Syria, and called on the world to take more aggressive action
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 6/14/2012, 3:12 PM

      Civil war in Syria
      Civil war in Syria
      Reuters

      In a new report, Amnesty International described the horrible conditions in Syria, confirming reports of torture, executions, arson, and other actions by the government or its agents against Syrian citizens.

      Amnesty International officials decided to enter Syria without government permission, after Damascus denied the group entry permits, in order to confirm what the Syrian government has claimed was “hearsay” and libelous charges aimed at helping “terrorists” to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. But after hundreds of interviews, Amnesty workers discovered clear patterns of human rights abuses.

      In what was a common pattern, Amnesty described the process whereby regular Syrian army troops swoop through a town, search for “terrorists” - the term used by Assad to describe activists who have organized protests against him – and make some arrests. When the troops leave, though, they are followed by members of a group called the “Shabbiha” - the “ghost squads” made up of members of Alawite Muslim clans loyal to Assad.

      Clad in black, and often very physically imposing – the result of taking steroids – the militia groups enter a town looting, raping, pillaging, and often killing. Members of the group earn about $40 a day -- a high salary in Syria -- and many come from families known to be close to the regime. It is they who are responsible for most of the violence, the report said, allowing Assad to claim that the mayhem in Syria is the work of “terrorist gangs,” even though the government supports, supplies, and pays them.

      According to the report, the terrorism against civilians “is part of state policy,” designed to intimidate opponents of the regime. This state-sponsored terrorism should be classified as a “crime against humanity.” It also urged the United Nations Security Council not only to condemn Syria, but to take further action, such as imposing sanctions and embargos, freezing assets of officials of the Syrian government, and referring cases against individuals in the government and the militias to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.